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Wojciechowski looks good, but Morton looks like an ace as Rays beat Orioles

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The new guy had an impressive debut Tuesday, but the Orioles had little answer for Charlie Morton in a 6-3 loss.

Baltimore Orioles v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

It was Asher Wojciechowski’s debut Tuesday night. And the 30-year-old newcomer pitched well. At times, exceptionally so.

Unfortunately, his timing stunk. Because as impressive as he looked, Charlie Morton was better.

Morton has been mowing teams down for much of the year, and on Tuesday the Orioles were the latest team to get in his way, falling 6-3 to the Tampa Bay Rays.

The key storyline coming in, from the Orioles’ perspective, was Wojciechowski, who was making his first appearance in a Baltimore uniform after coming over in a trade with Cleveland Monday. And by all measurements, the experiment was a success; Wojciechowski rolled through his first five innings before a rough stretch in the sixth forced him to leave with one out, having allowed four runs on five hits for the game.

He had practically zero margin for error, however, given the way Morton was dealing. The All-Star had curveballs looping through the strike zone and fastballs darting around both sides of the plate, and at times looked like Pedro Martinez out there. Or Greg Maddux. Or Shane Bieber.

He pitched seven innings and struck out 12 while allowing four hits and one run. He went the three innings between the third and seventh without allowing a hit, and if you need visual proof of how befuddled Orioles hitters were, Anthony Santander provided a perfect example during a punchout in the seventh.

Still, the Orioles had a shot down 2-1 in the sixth, thanks largely to Wojciechowski, who began the frame with six strikeouts and three hits and the two runs allowed. He even escaped a bad-luck jam in the fifth, giving up a one-out bloop double that landed on the left-field line, but then striking out Austin Meadows with the runner on third to end the threat.

In the sixth, though, he couldn’t slip away again. Brandon Lowe and Tommy Pham led off with a single and walk, respectively, and a “wild pitch” - that’s how it was scored, though catcher Chance Sisco clearly missed the ball - moved the runners to second and third. Wojciechowski got the next batter to ground to short, but it was the last out he’d get as Avisail Garcia grounded a hard single to left that scored both, made it 4-1 and prompted manager Brandon Hyde to come out with the hook.

The Orioles didn’t get closer. Rio Ruiz and Hanser Alberto got back-to-back two-out singles in the seventh, but Morton whiffed Davis to protect the three-run lead. Tommy Pham’s two-run double in the bottom half made it 6-1, and the Orioles didn’t respond on the board until the ninth, when a 441-foot Sisco home run brought in Trey Mancini and made for the 6-3 final score.

It was a competitive game until late, particularly in the opening innings. Tampa Bay struck on a Lowe home run in the first, but Wojciechowski limited the damage and then shut the Rays down 1-2-3 in the second.

Baltimore answered in the third, after Tampa Bay decided to put four players in the outfield against Chris Davis. Davis found the best way to beat the shift, tagging a Morton fastball the opposite way for a game-tying home run.

We don’t get to say this much, but the home run was classic Davis. Morton tried to go inside with a fastball but instead let it drift to the outside, and Davis, rather than trying to pull the pitch, simply went with it and used the power he still has in his deceptively easy swing to drive it over the left-field wall. It was a sight Orioles fans got used to during Davis’s days as an MVP candidate, and it came at a good time for the Birds.

Wojciechowski, however, couldn’t land the shutdown inning, as Joey Wendle walked, stole second and then came in on Lowe’s single to make it 2-1. Wojciechowski bounced back with a 1-2-3 fourth and then the escape act in the fifth, but his day and the Orioles’ best chances came to an end in the sixth.

Still, it’s hard to give Wojciechowski anything but a high grade for this game. In only his second day as an Oriole, he gave his new group a more than good enough shot against a tough team on the road. Maybe the Orioles have found someone who can be a decent spot starter going forward; he certainly looked like one Tuesday.

Unfortunately, Morton looked like a Cy Young candidate. Them’s the breaks.

Now, to make sure I spelled Wojciechowski correctly...